Editor’s Note: It was a day full of ideas, stories, and overall energy. A week ago, the GeriActors and Friends hosted their annual Holiday party, featuring a performance storytelling workshop, presentations by students in David Barnet’s intergenerational theatre class, and a work-in-progress play by the GeriActors and Friends entitled “Welcome to Our World”. Here is a blog post by Bill Yong about the event.
The GeriActors and Friends Holiday Party is a time we open our doors and invite everyone into the world that we create and play in. It started with some introductions. Everyone in the room collectively shouted their name into the middle of a circle and then introduced themselves to everyone. “We all wear glasses, we’ve been to a post-secondary institution, we all believe theatre has the power to make change” these were the conversations people were having, making introductions and finding things in common with each other.
Later we shared two-minute stories. Starting with the prompts, “A time you almost got in trouble” and “A journey you had taken” one person shared a story while the second would listen for two minutes. It was interesting observing the symbiotic relationship between storyteller and listener. Both needed each other, the storyteller needed the support of the listener while the listener needed the storyteller’s story to sustain their curiosity. This made me curious about the different physical and verbal ways a listener can support a storyteller. How does a storyteller nurture that support into the delivery of their story? After both people shared, the groups came together to create a moving tableaux from one of the stories shared. It was remarkable watching all these stories come alive in such a short amount of time.
After these initial activities, we had our famous GeriActors coffee break with treats, hot drinks and great conversation. A series of short presentations by students in the intergenerational class were given following the coffee break. There was an installation/poetry performance, a queer theatre company proposal, a reading from an excerpt in a memoir based on a student’s grandparents entitled “I Killed Hitler”, and a short read of a play inspired by the GeriActors featuring actors from the company. Lastly, the company performed our work-in-progress play entitled “Welcome to our world” and had a talk back.
The talk back provided us with incredible new insights and questions, a common feature of GeriActors Holiday Party talk backs. What is the GeriActors style of working? Someone proposed it wasan active collective model: every member is constantly looking for ways to make offers and support each other in rehearsal, whether actively participating or not serving as an engaged audience member. What is it that allows an inanimate object like a dead fish to have a voice and enhance the story at the same time? Is it the element of surprise? Is it the presence of a different perspective? Lastly, what can we do to support this intergenerational work? How do we get more students to enrol in the intergenerational theatre class as the University is making budget cuts? How do we allow students to see the value of this experience and the importance of this conversation? It seemed like these questions bred other questions, and we left the holiday party with curiosity and a lot of work ahead of us in the coming year.